Hong Kong cinema is undergoing a particular process of transformation influenced by historical, political and geographic factors that question its very identity . This is apparent in the works of directors like John Woo and Wong Kah Wai. The article I've chosen is written by Tony Williams. "Space, Place, and Spectacle: The Crisis Cinema of John Woo." It depicts some of the ideas that John Woo was reflecting in his films. In John Woo's work, he has always wanted to reach out to more than an oriental audience. In the following argument I'll be touching on how he uses the combination of western and eastern technics and motif to reach out to the extended audience, the non-oriental audience. The space and identity of Hong Kong, the hybridity and how his religious background affects some of his film and also how his idea of having traditional values that John Woo always emphasize on like loyalty, honour, honesty, justice, and commitment to family contradicts to his negative perspective on the 1997 handing over of Hong Kong from the British colony the mainland China.
In John Woo's film, he always tries to reach out further than the eastern audience. He does that by combining western technic with eastern motif easily understandable to non-oriental audience . In 'a better tomorrow', the figure of Mark, played by Chow Yun-Fat was not exactly the typical masculine body we would see in a western film. Within the Hollywood sexual politics of representation, the action star is traditionally larger than life, an iconic "pin-up" with superior physical capabilities . He is also depicts as one with sexual representation. More like the Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone character. Instead of the typical male body that was the clichÃÂ© to most films both in Hollywood and Hong Kong, the character of mark in a better tomorrow was nothing like that. His playfulness character was shown at the start of the film where he help an illegal food vendor escape from the policeman and treated it like a game, indirectly mocking the policeman. He then demonstrated his childishness in the car, talking playfully with his partner, Ho, asking if he wants to lick his finger to get a taste of what he is eating. Furthermore, being the modern romantic hero, he has no romantic or sexual encounter with a female counterpart which again is not of the typically male body. Why is it that such an ostensible exercise in masculine fantasy as A Better Tomorrow became such a success, appealing in the process presumably, to both male and female viewers? Why is Chow Yun-Fat's suffering gangster figure such a contemporary archetype? And why does he die in both films, given that he is one of the Chinese cinema's top stars . It is also not a typical thing for the male lead to die at the end of the film. This shows that John Woo not only wants to combine the east and the west, but also to have a style of his own, not conforming to traditions.
One of his ways to appeal to a more western audience is to insert beliefs of the west into his films. Being one with Christian upbringing, it is quite common to find the widespread use of Christian symbolism in his film. A cross is shown in the scene in the hospital where Ho and Kit's father was when he was sick. Not forgetting the national historical and religious traditions influences he got when he was growing up, he himself is like a hybrid of the east and the west of his time. He often intertwines objects of both religiously and metaphorically east and west. These Chinese and Catholic religious associations belong to a twentieth-century hybrid world and are as much a part of Woo's films as the cultural references he cites .
Why is there even a need in John Woo's film to reach out to an audience of the non-oriental? Hong Kong identity and sense of belonging is then in question here. Historically, Hong Kong is only a space of iconographical, a sense of borrowed space. What sense of identity does it really have then? The fact that the place was under the ruling of the British colony makes it a western place in an oriental orientated place is not a fair statement. There was always a struggle with its identity of being a purely western place, a purely eastern place or is it a place of sheer hybridity. Yau notes that Hong Kong is a colony fully aware of its complicity with the colonial era and contemporary Western capitalism. It views 1997 as a threat to its quintessential hybrid and heterogeneous .
In the article of Tony Williams, it was mentioned that most of the Hong Kong resident viewed the handing over from the British colony the mainland china an apocalyptic event. Even when John Woo was making his film a better tomorrow in 1986, 11 years before the handing over, he already had a negative impression about the handing over. Towards the end of the film, as mark, face bloodied and bandaged, puffs on a cigarette and observes: "I never realized Hong Kong looked so good at night... Like most things, it won't last; that's for sure." The character's wistful musings resonate with a sense of imminent change, which, Ackbar Abbas has argued, becomes a marker of the emergence of a new Hong Kong cinema. A defining moment is signaled by the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration returning Hong Kong to China in 1997 . This statement was an insert to the film stating the fate of Hong Kong however good it may be, it will still come to an end when the handing over happens in 1997. I thought that the negative idea of hk being handed over from a British colony to mainland china quite ironic and rather contradicting especially to John Woo's idea of inserting traditional values to his audience. John Woo films are always integrated with the theme of loyalty, honour, justice, honesty and commitment to family. In that light, the handing over of Hong Kong from a British colony to china mainland may not be an apocalyptical or even a negative one after all. The reason why John Woo wanted to integrated these traditional values is that he felt that these values are slowly been lost in this modern world we live in. Being under the rule of the British definitely acts as a catalyst to the lost of these traditional values. The handing over to china not only retains the traditional values but also ensure that these values are being practised by people everyday. Within such a world the "good" and "bad" spaces conflicts with each other, counterpointing historical clashes of traditional and contemporary alienating forces that threaten to engulf Woo's heroes in cinematic worlds hurtling towards destruction and disappearance . Hong Kong, before the handing over being a good space and Hong Kong, after handing over being a bad space might not be all true after all. It's all about the people not wanting and are afraid to accept changes. Even before the change happen, people already have the mindset that the change will bring about chaos and confusion in their like, therefore, they are not willing to accept it.
John Woo and his film depict a sense of hybridity both of the east and the west historically and geographically. He clearly shows in his film his wish to reach out to a wider and non-oriental audience with the ideas of combining and inserting western technics and elements into them yet still having a style of his own, not conforming to the regularity of the industry, not having a typical masculine body in 'A Better Tomorrow'. The sense of identity and the sense of belonging of Hong Kong has also been discussed and argued on. So Hong Kong, like John Woo, is a place of hybridity, it doesn't really have a sense of identity and belonging but yet is unique in itself in its own way so that kind of gives itself its own identity. John Woo also contradicts himself when he shows in his film "A Better Tomorrow" that the handing over of Hong Kong from the British colony to mainland China is a negative one because that will instil traditional values in the people like how he wanted to influence them in his film.